Based on real life events, Paan Singh Tomar is a film that looks at the life of an Army man and a medal winning steeplechase racer who takes on to becoming a dacoit/rebel due to certain unavoidable events in his personal life.
The film is a stark look at life, especially in the villages, but more so it tries to prove a point about how the sportsmen/women of India are not given enough credit and looked after once they retire.
This picking up of a social issue and developing a story around it has become somewhat of a recent trend in Indian movies. Although there is nothing wrong with informing the audience of the injustice that happens around them, it is my belief that eventually these films don't have any impact in real life, at least not a major one. Moreover, as is the case with Paan Singh Tomar, social issue films get appreciated more for their content rather than for the actual film.
As a film Paan Singh Tomar is very mediocre. The editing in the first half is very choppy and at times irritating. The running/race scenes along with the training montages are not at all pleasing or exciting, but simply repetitive and eventually a tad boring. I wish the director would have seen Chariots of Fire to really make the races more heart pounding. Irrfan is a great actor, one of the best in India, but he is not a runner and this fact is evident on screen.
There is a slight hope in the middle of the film wherein the protagonist slowly succumbs to the corruption that is so much a part of every Indian's life and eventually takes on to becoming a rebel on the run. The film at this point changes course and with harsh scenery comes a grittier feel. Unfortunately, once again this gets dragged on till the very end making the last half-hour excruciatingly repetitive. Corruption has become a part of life in India. Everyone is aware of it and everyone has faced it in one way or another. It is unfortunate, but now when something like police brutality is showcased in a film; it no real revelation.
Paan Singh Tomar succeeds in its performances. Irrfan gives a commendable performance that at times might seem similar to his other roles, but nevertheless stands out. Mahi Gill, as Paan Singh Tomar's wife, has a small role, but she manages to leave a mark by supporting Irrfan all the way through. Most of the other characters remain undeveloped and provide very little to the film. The comedy aspect in the film is once again disappointing. Most of laughs come from either the accented dialect in which Irrfan speaks or from the repetitive "normal" moments in the life of Paan Singh Tomar where he tries to sneak in a few minutes with his wife alone for a little intimacy.
There are much better sports films, more engrossing films on corruption, and more brutal films on dacoits and rebels. Although Paan Singh Tomar brings about these different genres together in a film, it doesn't linger on in the mind enough to have a positive long lasting impact and proves to be a forgettable affair.